It is through Charity that one learns to forget oneself for Charity has its existence not “in” but “out” of self. God is Charity and the more charitable we are the more we are like God, and as thing that are alike readily unite, it follows that Charity is the most immediate and expeditious means of our union with God. It is through the practice of Charity that we learn to forget self and the more one forgets himself the more God is watchful of us. He who has totally forgotten himself is wholly directed by God.
It is only through Charity that God dwells in us. A true act of Charity is worth immortality; for it has God at is beginning, middle and end. He who sees only creatures, who has no other love than human or natural affection – will never do an act of Charity. For true Charity consists in the perfect forgetfulness of self for the good of another. The greater cannot lose or forget itself in the lesser or the equal, hence for a perfect act of Charity God must be its object. Three things are necessary in every act of Charity. 1) the impulse of the Holy Spirit, 2) the forgetfulness of self, and 3) the view of God alone in the object.
A Response from the Rev. Paul Robichaud CSP
“God is love and whoever lives in love lives in God and God in them.” Here in the first letter of John (1 John 4:6) the evangelist tells us that when we experience selfless acts of love, we experience God. Servant of God Isaac Hecker uses the word “Charity” in todays’ reflection. Hecker is talking about a certain kind of love, one that Saint Paul writes about in First Corinthians. It is a virtue, a selfless act that develops into a habit like its sister virtues, faith and hope. In Hecker’s day it was easier to speak of this virtue as “Charity” whereas today “Charity” implies a singular act of kindness or an organization that imparts assistance. So in modern usage I prefer to us the words “selfless love” knowing that we are speaking about the virtue of love.
Hecker speaks about selfless acts of love, as this kind of love carries the presence of God, when we experience it we experience God and when we act selflessly and lose ourselves, God comes into union with us.. As he writes that it is only in this way that God dwells within us.” Hecker attempts to explain the dynamic of selfless love where we let go of our self centeredness and our self-interest. Hecker notes that we cannot lose ourselves completely in another person, we can only lose ourselves in something greater than ourselves and that is God. Selfless love is at its core an act of loving God through loving our neighbor.
Hecker ends by writing that there are three things that God into an act of selfless love. First is that the impulse comes from God the Holy Spirit and not from ourselves. Second that we forget or let go of ourselves. Finally, that the object of our letting go is God. For only in God can we truly let go of ourselves. Here is the dynamic of selfless love, the virtue of love with its companions, faith and hope that Saint Paul writes about to the Corinthians.
If you want to deepen your experience of God, commit some act of love. So go out this week and be selfless. Know that when you forget yourself, God not only watches over you but unites with you in a deeper way. Its always a risk to let go of self but when done with faith and hope, we meet God who seeks to dwell within us.
Paulist Father Paul Robichaud CSP is Historian of the Paulist Fathers and Postulator of the Cause of Father Hecker. His office is located at the Hecker Center in Washington, DC.